The Tumor Vascular Endothelium as Decision Maker in Cancer Therapy
Genetic and pathophysiologic criteria prearrange the uncontrolled growth of neoplastic cells that in turn initiates new vessel formation, which is prerequisite for further tumor growth and progression. This first endothelial lining is patchy, disordered in structure and thus, angiogenic tumor vessels were proven to be functionally inferior. As a result, tumors were characterized by areas with an apparent oversupply in addition to areas with an undersupply of vessels, which complicates an efficient administration of intravenous drugs in cancer therapy and might even lower the response e.g. of radiotherapy (RT) because of the inefficient oxygen supply. In addition to the vascular dysfunction, tumor blood vessels contribute to the tumor escape from immunity by the lack of response to inflammatory activation (endothelial anergy) and by repression of leukocyte adhesion molecule expression. However, tumor vessels can remodel by the association with and integration of pericytes and smooth muscle cells which stabilize these immature vessels resulting in normalization of the vascular structures. This normalization of the tumor vascular bed could improve the efficiency of previously established therapeutic approaches, such as chemo- or radiotherapy by a more homogenous drug and oxygen distribution, and/or by overcoming endothelial anergy. This review highlights the current investigations that take advantage of a proper vascular function for improving cancer therapy with a special focus on the endothelial-immune system interplay.